Anemia is a condition in which the blood does not supply the body with enough oxygen. This is because, in anemia, either the number of red blood cells circulating in the body is lower than normal or the levels of hemoglobin inside the red blood cells fall below normal.
If hemoglobin and/or red blood cell levels are low, less oxygen is delivered to the tissues by the blood.
As a result, people with anemia often feel tired, weak, cold, and short of breath.
Red blood cells (known as “RBC's" or erythrocytes) carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and remove carbon dioxide and other waste products from the tissues.
Hemoglobin is the iron-containing red pigment that gives the red blood cells their color; and it also gives red blood cells their ability to carry oxygen.
Anemia is the most common disorder of the red blood cells, affecting about 3.5 million Americans.
Why Does Anemia Occur (What causes anemia)?
Facts About Anemia
- The word anemia is Greek for "without blood."
- Anemia is a common problem for menstruating women because their iron supplies are depleted monthly.
- In young children,
marrowin all the bones produces red blood cells. As a person ages, red blood cells are eventually produced only in the marrow of the spine, ribs, and pelvis.
- The life span of a red blood cell is between 90 and 120 days.
- Old red blood cells are removed from the blood by the liver and
spleen, and the iron is returned to the bone marrow to make new cells.
- The word erythrocyte is derived from the Greek words “erythros” (meaning “red”) and “cyte,” meaning “cell.” Erythrocytes, or red blood cells, were first observed with a microscope in the late 1600s.
Risk Factors for Anemia
Most people can easily avoid anemia by eating an adequate diet that includes enough iron-rich foods. But some people are at greater risk of anemia because of circumstances, illness, family history, genetics, or other factors. Because anemia has many causes, many such risk factors for anemia exist. A few of the most common risk factors are described below.
- Inadequate iron intake. Not eating enough iron-rich foods is the most common cause of anemia. While most of the developed world has more-than-adequate access to iron-rich foods, resource-poor countries
- Inadequate intake of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the production of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 generally is found only in animal foods including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy product (tempeh being the one vegetarian exception to this rule). Strict vegetarians, .
- Inadequate intake of folate (Vitamin B6). The body needs Vitamin B6 to make hemoglobin. In addition, Vitamin B6 helps increase the oxygen-carrying ability of the blood. Vitamin B6 is found in many foods. Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), beef liver, yellowfin tuna, and salmon are exceptionally rich sources of this vitamin. Most breakfast cereals are fortified with the vitamin: One serving of fortified cereal provides 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance.
- Intestinal problems. People with underlying intestinal disease such as Crohn’s Disease or celiac disease are at greater risk of developing anemia.
- Chronic conditions. Many chronic health problems may increase the risk of anemia. These include diabetes, kidney problems, heart disease, thyroid disease, liver disease, and many cancers. Long-term infections can also contribute to anemia.
- Pregnancy. A pregnant woman needs to take in enough iron for both her developing fetus and herself. Many pregnant women have difficulty consuming enough iron-rich foods because of pregnancy-related nausea, which is one reason physicians recommend all pregnant women take a multivitamin that contains at least
- Menstruation. Women who menstruate heavily can lose a significant amount of iron during each period. If this iron loss is not offset by diet or supplements, anemia can result.
- Family history of anemia. Many types of anemia are inherited. Sickle cell anemia is the most well known of the inherited types of anemia; thalassemia is another inherited disorder that can cause inadequate .
- Medications. Some medications, especially chemotherapy drugs, can cause anemia. Even common over-the-counter medications can contribute to anemia. For instance, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen or naproxyn may cause gastrointestinal bleeding, which in turn can cause anemia. Overuse of heartburn medications can inhibit absorption of Vitamin B12 and contribute indirectly to anemia.
Carley, A. (2003). Anemia: When Is it Iron Deficiency? Pediatric Nursing, 29(2). Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/452692
National Center for Health Statistics, FastStats. (2011). Anemia or Iron Deficiency. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/anemia.htm
National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. (2011). Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B6. Retrieved from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminb6
National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. (2011). Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12. Retrieved from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-QuickFacts
World Health Organization. Nutrition, Micronutrient Deficiencies, Iron-deficiency Anemia. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/ida/en/index.html